Tesla has made waves in recent years with its bold automotive design choices. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in its Cybertruck. Tesla’s Cybertruck boasts impressive capabilities, such as the ability to tow seven tons and hit a top speed of 130 mph. However, its blocky frame is enough to turn off many prospective buyers. However, it’s not the only automotive manufacturer venturing out into new truck design terrain. Buick is bringing back the classic Electra in a form similar to the Cybertruck, first in China and, potentially, the U.S. in the future.
The luxury Buick Electra’s initial run
The Electra models were known for their wide bodies and luxury trappings. But these distinct cars were eventually discontinued as consumer preferences shifted to sleeker-styled vehicles. Still, the Electra enjoyed a four-decade-plus run and produced some popular models. The name Electra first went to two top-line Buick models, the Super (the Electra) and the Roadmaster (the Electra 225), in 1959 to increase sales.
By 1961, the minor refresh the company gave to both vehicles became a major redesign. The Electra of 1961 was available as an RWD station wagon, sedan, coupe, or convertible. Hardtop models were known as Electra Riviera or Electra 225 Riveria. Models featured fabric trim while 225s featured leather or vinyl. Each model included a Turbine-Drive transmission, power steering and brakes, and deluxe wheel covers, among other amenities. By the end of this year, the Electra was phased out in favor of the Electra 225.
The Seventies saw the Electra 225’s sport updated grilles, bumpers, and taillights. In 1974, Buick introduced the Electra Limited, which had previously been a luxury trim, as a full model. 1975 saw many changes, including fixed rear side windows, a shorter front end, rectangular headlights, and a grille with running lights on each side.
All models also saw powertrain changes designed to meet then-new federal emissions standards. And 1975 also saw the Electra Limited Park Avenue’s introduction, which came with such luxury trappings as pillow-topped seats and velour interior trim. In 1977, further changes came when Buick downsized its Electras by nearly a foot.
These smaller cars, complete with additional powertrain changes, enjoyed greater fuel economy and sales throughout the 1980s. By 1985, the company debuted a slimmer FWD Electra that was even smaller. But the Electras of this era were packed with luxury touches. The 1986 Riviera even featured one of the first touchscreens in a car. The Park Avenue trim continued to be the highest level until the Electra Park Avenue Ultra was unveiled in 1988. And by 1991, “Park Avenue” replaced Electra as the name of the Roadmaster.
Bringing the Electra back
While Buick has no plans to bring back the Roadmaster of old, the company does plan to bring the name back for its new crossover. From the recently unveiled prototype, the Electra is boxy but sleek with 23-inch wheels, as per General Motors. And according to Autoweek, it will house the same battery the Cadillac Lyriq does, meaning it can produce 583 hp and hit 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. It also should be able to hit just over 400 miles on one charge.
As per the Robb Report, the new Electra will boast butterfly doors that can open based on face recognition, a retractable steering wheel, and a large touchscreen dashboard, among other striking features. Riders will also be treated to floating seats, which will create the impression of weightlessness in the cabin. The concept car has plenty of futuristic touches and could be a popular competitor to Tesla if available in the U.S.
Of course, the Tesla Cybertruck will supposedly have many awe-inspiring features, such as its scratch and dent resistant cladding, its aircraft-style yoke instead of a steering wheel, and butterfly doors. But the Cybertruck has been pilloried as ugly by many mainstream publications, not to mention car enthusiasts. Despite its new-age features, many consumers will be looking for other alternatives.
The Buick Electra’s future
According to Green Car Reports, the first models of the all-new Electra will be sold in China rather than the United States. For those who’ve followed the Buick brand, this is not much of a surprise. Buick has been making vehicles for the Chinese market and selling them in other markets and China for years. And China’s adoption rate of EVs is moving faster than in the United States. Coupled with Buick’s market position in the country, the move makes more sense.
Given Buick’s long-standing history in North America, it is somewhat surprising that sales in a foreign market would primarily drive it. But Buick began consolidating its U.S. offerings in the early 2000s, as sales growth grew considerably in China. Buick manufacturing began in Shanghai in 1996. But it had become associated with power and prestige in the minds of Chinese consumers in the days of the Super and the Roadmaster, as many famous Chinese figures drove these foreign cars during the mid-twentieth century. And in the Nineties, the company launched new brands that recalled that association and impacted a new generation of Chinese consumers.
Today, Buick sells 80 percent of its stock in China. And in a large and growing auto market, Buick is likely making a smart strategic decision with the new Electra. Buick may well have a hit on its hands with the Electra by producing a futuristic EV with a throwback name.